Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tulip Longevity

I am so lucky to live on the north (zone 4-5) because tulips love it cold! I have never treated tulips as annuals -- they act as perennials in my garden; and I couldn't be happier. So I'm stumped why so many in this area talk about tulips as annuals; and why I see so many gardeners dumping their tulips in the compost after they bloom.

Now further south I know tulips do not fair so well, and they will be annuals unless you dig them up and refrigerate them over the winter. Too much work for me, so if I lived further south, I wouldn't even bother.

And I know that not all tulips are created equal, as in not all tulips will come back strong or multiply year after year. I believe though that with a little extra care, even these tulips might do better here.

These red tulips are some of the first that I planted in my garden. I believe that they were planted in the fall of 1998 -- that makes them 9 years old. Not bad for 9, huh?

These Darwins (which used to be mixed but are all now one variety ) were also planted at the same time.

As were these Black Parrot tulips. I only bought 3 Black Parrot bulbs, so they have even multiplied for me. Just an FYI, in my experience, parrots are not the best multiplier but Darwins will multiply without much trouble.

The Gavota tulips (the maroon and cream with those red tulips in the background) are 8 years old, and they have multiplied as well. These are the tulips that most people ask about. Just today I had two people come off the street, while I was working in the garden, to ask me about those tulips.

And of course, my favorites, Princess Irene, in my blog header, are 7 years old. And they still look as great as the first spring they bloomed.

I don't do much with my tulips. I just follow a few simple rules.
- NEVER cut the foliage back. I try to plant them so that other plants will hide the withering foliage, but I do not cut or tie up the foliage.
- ALWAYS cut the flower stems off as soon as the flower is spent. Tulips need the energy in their bulbs, not in making seeds.
- Feed them bone meal if they look like they need it, and sometimes even if they don't. Tulips expend a lot of energy making big, beautiful flowers; make sure they eat enough to build it back up.

Even I think that those steps are easy enough. And for such wonderful, long lasting results!


Blogger Zoey said...

This must be the year of the tulips for us cold-weather gardeners. Mine are putting on a good show right now.

My Princess Irene are not as nice as they were three years ago. I'd say they a are about 1/2 the height and the bloom is much smaller, too. But at least they came back, so I am happy.

Those red tulips are unbelieveable for 9 years old!

5/25/2008 6:32 PM  
Blogger Tam said...

The Gavotas are divine.

I have limited luck with tulips. None of mine ever last 9 years. I may pick up some bone meal, maybe that will do the trick.

When do you apply? In the spring?

5/26/2008 11:50 AM  
Blogger Sylvana said...

Zoey, I don't even do anything special with my Princess Irenes. They are in a corner garden near the road, and I forget about them out there.

I wish I could remember what kind the red ones are. I need some more red tulips to draw the eye around.

Tam, I use bone meal in the spring or the fall; usually one or the other, but sometimes both. I generally use it when I think they might need a boost. I don't even use it every year. I only started using it on these red ones last fall, just for the heck of it, and I have yet to use it on my Princess Irenes.

One other thing that I do with bulbs is that I plant them deeper than recommended. I started doing that to keep the squirrels from getting them, but I just found out that it is a technique to make tulips live longer. So maybe that helps too.

5/27/2008 11:02 PM  

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